Who Needs DCE?
When Daly Cherry-Evans backflipped on his deal with the Titans last year, the Titans appeared to be without any decent halves for 2016, especially as Aidan Sezer had already signed a deal with Canberra. However, on Sunday the Titans halves stock was further strengthened when 22 year old Cameron Cullen made a strong debut against the Sharks, which was topped off by a wonderful solo try. His fellow young halves partner Ashley Taylor once again showed that he has handled the step up to the NRL with ease, as he scored a try with a big dummy, and forced 4 repeat sets with his excellent kicking game. The performance was very impressive considering the fact that Taylor and Cullen were the Titans third and fourth choice halves respectively heading into the season, with Cullen filling in for the injured Tyrone Roberts, who is the most experienced of the Titans playmakers. Neil Henry will be spoilt for choices next season, as the Titans best half Kane Elgey will return from a season ending ACL injury. Add in the fact that all four of these halves combined would take up less salary than Cherry-Evans, and you can’t help but feel that his backflip was a blessing in disguise for the Gold Coast.
Saturday’s game felt more like a warzone than a rugby league field at times, with 4 players having to leave the field for a concussion test. Sharks five-eight James Maloney was forced to miss the remainder of the clash after a massive hit from Greg Bird left him dazed early on in the match. Titans hooker was then taken off to be tested after a tackle from Michael Ennis left him dazed, but he was cleared of a concussion. Friend’s return was very fortunate for the Titans, as his replacement hooker Daniel Mortimer was knocked out later on with the game, and was left with a nasty gash in his head after colliding with team mate Ryan James’ elbow. Sharks veteran Luke Lewis was also forced out of the game with a concussion, leaving the Sharks with just 15 players for the entire second half.
Andrew Fifita put in one of his strongest performances in recent memory, with his dominating runs being the clear difference between the two sides. When Fifita was off the field the Titans looked strong, but momentum seemed to swing whenever he gifted the Sharks side with his presence. The Cronulla prop ran for 160 metres, broke 8 tackles, scored a try, and came within inches of scoring another after an impressive line break.
Titans Backs Lacking Strike
The Titans could sure do with James Roberts right now, as their forward pack and halves are impressing, however they are lacking strike in the outside backs. The likes of William Zillman, Nene McDonald, Josh Hoffman and Anthony Don are all solid players, however they all lack the x-factor required to create points out of nothing out wide. This was evident against the Sharks, as the Titans three tries came from an intercept, and the individual brilliance of both halves. The Titans should consider searching for a strike player to add to their backline before the June 30th cut off date, with Konrad Hurrel still a possibility due to his lack of game time for the Warriors.
From the Sheds
Mortimer, Maloney and Lewis could all be forced to miss their next clash depending on the seriousness of their concussions. Andrew Fifita suffered an arm injury, but it has been reported as just a bump to the nerve, rather than a broken bone. Greg Bird was placed on report for his hit on Maloney, and will face a one week ban after being charged by the Match Review Committee.
Cronulla Sharks 25
Tries: Ben Barba, Sosaia Feki, Andrew Fifita, Valentine Holmes
Goals: Valentine Holmes 2
Gold Coast Titans 20
Tries: Nene McDonald, Cameron Cullen, Ashley Taylor
Goals: Ashley Taylor 3